Saturday, December 3, 2011

SalonQP 2011 – a #watchnerd round-up for Down Under

Our horological friend #watchnerd kindly agreed to share some of his thoughts about SalonQP 2011 for Australian readers.

Apologies for the delay in writing this for you – your hosts asked me shortly after SalonQP ended, but I’ve only just got round to putting fingers to keyboard.

I’ve no doubt you’ve already seen some coverage of this event online, on Twitter or even in the press. In my opinion, it was phenomenally successful, capturing the spirit of QP in an environment (the Saatchi Gallery in London’s Chelsea) that seemed to breathe life into everything on display.

The list of exhibitors really was quite extraordinary – there were many brands that had never before displayed in the UK, and it included everything from the hand-made (Dr George Daniels’ final pieces) to the ultimate in haute-horology, MB&F and De Bethune. All in all, it was a very, very good weekend. Apologies for the brief canter through the halls, but here are five of my highlights:

First up, a brand that has been getting a lot of press recently, following its Aiguille d'or at the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève: the De Bethune DB28.

This space age, Star Trek-like piece seemed to capture the imagination of many visitors who were enamoured as much by its look as for the opportunity to closely admire the perfectly formed platinum and blued-steel moon phase rotating on its own axis below the dial.

Secondly, a new name: Heritage Watch Manufactory. Exploring the many patented devices that watchmaker Karsten Frässdorff has developed as part of the TENSUS and MAGNUS watch movements, while handling the beautifully designed Eric Giroud case, was pretty much as good as it gets in terms of watch-geekery. Whether it was the discussing the SEQUAX escapement or the VIVAX movement, I was pretty much out of my depth from the start, but found myself swimming in that huge balance, admiring the perfect weight of the movement. At one point, I think I forgot to breathe for about a minute…

Thirdly, the incredible Legacy Machine No1 from MB&F. For me, this is pure steampunk. I know it’s an overused word, but surely, if there’s any watch that deserves the moniker, it’s this one. Max Busser asked his friends a question: what watch would they be making if they’d been born 150 years ago, but had the knowledge and technology available to them today. The answer is the LM1, a truly astounding piece that elevates (quite literally) the balance wheel to the pinnacle of horology. Spinning away, it hovers like some tiny little UFO above the dial. A vertical clutch shows the power reserve, while the whole face of the watch is encased in a highly exaggerated domed sapphire crystal that reminds me of the glass cases in which specimens are sometimes displayed. Truly unique. Truly lovely.

Fourthly, the never-before-shown Spirit Pioneer from Peter Speake-Marin. The Pioneer is, perhaps, best described as an entry-level PSM. Built around the last of Peter’s FW2012 movements, the watch is quite different to any other model I’ve seen previously. On the wrist, it looks far more masculine than I expected – and the military influence comes through very strongly, whether it’s in the massive roman numerals, or the oversized, highly lumed hour markers. Of course, the fit and finish is superb as always, with the topping-tool-inspired rotor clearly visible through the display back. Hurry – I hear they’re nearly all gone.

Finally, and my favourite piece on display, the Ressence Series One, Type 1002. I first saw this model reported last year, and absolutely loved the concept. I therefore emailed the creator of the Ressence – Benoît Mintiens – before QP to secure some time talking to him. The concept is relatively simple: a watch without traditional hands, that prioritises the language of time. The hour “hand” (in fact a rotating dial) is top-left in the photo, subservient to the large minute indicator, with a small, sub-seconds dial turning constantly below it. 

The whole face of the watch revolves within the subtly curved sapphire, creating an illusion of orbiting moons, or planets. I found it fascinating, and not that difficult to read at all. Powered by an ETA2824, the dials are mounted on geared wheels and ceramic bearings to allow for smooth passage around the module. There’s been mention previously that this watch is “only” an ETA, but, like PSM, this merely provides power to the watch. Personally, I loved the 1002 model, with its anodised titanium dials. The lugs have been slightly modified from the original prototype and now grip the wrist in a far more welcoming manner. The softly curved, convex sapphire back is also remarkably sensual to wear and touch. It’s probably not for everyone, but it’s certainly for me.


The Sydney Tarts said...

Many thanks, Noodle. I am really keen to see the Legacy Machine and the Ressence in particular. AP.

Noodlefish said...

You are more than welcome. I only bumped into one 'Tart' at QP this year. Perhaps we can make it a few more in 2012?

underthedial said...

Great post thank you - it was one of the best watch exhibitions I've ever attended as well